Insight Local Government Lawyer Insight February 2018 37 The title to this article is taken, of course, from Hamlet: “… it is a custom more honour’d in the breach than in the observance.” I have had reason to wonder, in the last year or two, if some licensing authorities more honour their Cumulative Impact Policies (CIPs) in the breach – whether they more often grant a licence in the teeth of their own policy, than apply the policy and refuse applications in accordance with its terms. And if they do so, why? In the imagined words of a notional bystander: “What on earth is going on?” The licensing authority for one of our cities (one of a handful that compete for the reputation as “The Binge Drinking Capital of England”) recently granted an application in its cumulative impact zone for premises that would accommodate nearly a thousand people, authorising the sale of alcohol and unrestric ted music and dancing until 01:00 in the morning, 7 days a week. I find it very difficult to see how that could do anything other than add to the existing cumulative impact: but the application was granted – not as an exception to the policy, but because (on no cogent evidence: mere assertion) it was said that ‘there will be no additional cumulative impact’. So: what is going on? Nature and purpose of cumulative impact policies My starting point is to remind myself of the problems that cumulative impact policies are intended to solve. The policies began life in Westminster back in 2001/2. The problems were described – “We also recognise the cumulative effect that licences can have on an area. In some mixed residential and commercial areas, a few well managed [licensed] premises or night cafes may be able to operate without harming local residents. In these areas, however, the cumulative effect of more and more such premises may be such that an adverse effect on local reside nts is impos sible or virtua lly impossi ble to avoid. It is argued that in some areas the number of such premises has reached saturation point. Consequently, in these areas it would be undesirable to licence any more entertainment premises or night cafes.” [The emphasis and underlining are mine.] High Court approval of cumulative impact policies came in the Chorion litigation (The Queen on the application of Westminster City Council v Middlesex Crown Court [2002] EWHC 1104 (Admin)). The language of the Crown Court judge (as summarised by the High Court) is instructive: “The first question was whether, notwithstanding the applicant was a fit and proper person and the premises would be well managed, a … licence could be refused on the sole ground that the area was already saturated with licensed premises… and that the cumulative effect of the existing premises was impacting adversely on the area to an unacceptable degree. The answer to this [is] ‘yes’.” [Underlining mine] In the High Court, the need for a CIP in Westminster was succinctly put by Scott Baker J: “The nature of the problem is such that it is cumulative rather than attributable to any specific individual or licensed premises.” The judge continued – “It is both understandable and appropriate for the Claimant to have a policy in the light of the problems it has identified in the West End. The policy needs to make it clear that it is not directed at the quality of the operation or the fitness of the licensee but on the global effect of these licences on the area as a whole.” Why the problems experienced need to be addressed by a CIP The evidence in the Chorion case was that the alcohol-fuelled issues on the street (crime, disorder, nuisance) could not with Gerald Gouriet QC asks why many licensing committees seem to be disregarding their own cumulative impact policies when granting new alcohol licences. Cumulative impact policies: more honoured in the breach?